Tuesday, February 16, 2016


I coach several young teachers, with little babies.

Many mornings, they come to school, hair knotted on top of head, dark circles under their eyes. They tell stories of midnight feedings, teething, ear aches. They long for the days ahead, when they will once again be allowed to sleep through the night.

And I wish I could tell them that this is true. That mothers eventually do sleep through the night. That my sons, who are 20 and 22, let me sleep through the night every night.

But that doesn't seem to always be the case.

Take last night for instance.

A few days ago, my son told me that they were changing his hours at his job. For the past few months, he's worked 1:00-9:30. He's not a morning person, so that works well for him.  He sleeps, I think, until about ten. Plays a few video games. Eats something and goes to work at 1.

And the schedule kind of works for me. I am not a night person, but I can make myself stay up until ten, so I can see him. Touch base.  Answer random questions about car insurance and W-2's. Be there if he wants to talk (he usually doesn't).

The new schedule, 3:45 until closing, sometime around 12:30, doesn't work for me at all. I don't get home, ever, before he leaves for work at 3:15. And I definitely can't stay up until 12:30, then get up and go to work the next morning. I wonder if I will ever see him. How we will make time to talk. How I will know if he is ok.

At first, he tells me the schedule will start in a week or two. Then on Sunday he texts me while I am visiting my mom. The new schedule starts today, he says.

Immediately, I start to worry. I imagine him being jumped as he walks across the dark parking lot with a bag of money from the gas stand.  I imagine him being killed by a drunk driver on the way home. Or being pulled over by the police to become yet another young African American male statistic on his way home.  I am terrified.

Several times that evening I text to check in. He becomes irritated. Tells me he is making money and I need to leave him alone. I apologize.

I go to bed. Drift into that light mother of adolescents sleep mode, where you are kind of half, but know your babies are yet not home safe. The dog doesn't not come to bed with me. She is also waiting for her boy to come home.

At 12:38, my phone rings. My son's number shows up on the screen and I immediately panic.

Fortunately, it's nothing major. A co-worker is having car trouble. Zay is following the worker home to make sure he gets there. I ask where the co worker lives. Zay doesn't know, but says he will be home after that. I'm grateful (and a little surprised) that he has called to let me know. I wonder if these midnight calls will become a regular occurrence.

Evidently, the co-worker lives close by, because at 12:53 the front door opens. I hear the dog jump off the couch to greet him. Hear Zay's heavy work boot tread on the kitchen floor above me. Hear him open the refrigerator. Pause at the top of the stairs.

"Can I have that box in the fridge?" he says, referring to the leftover fajitas I brought home from lunch with my mom, thinking I would take them to school for lunch on Tuesday. I tell him he can.

He clunks around the kitchen for a few more minutes, then I hear the microwave ping. A few minutes later, his door shuts, and the house is quiet. I go back to sleep.

At 2:40, the dog begins to whine. She wants to go outside. This isn't typical for her, and I wonder if she is sick. I lay awake for a few minutes, contemplating where the money for a vet bill might come from.

At 4:00 the alarm goes off. I have the day off, but have a ton of papers to read and grade and have not been very productive this weekend. I groan and roll over.

Motherhood, with its sleepless nights, doesn't end when children are two or three or four.

I am pretty sure those go on forever.


Book Mama said...

So true--the sleeplessness never really ends. The worry doesn't stop! Even when I wake my daughter up in the morning for school, I have a momentary panic nearly every single morning when I put my hand on her and she doesn't move for a second. Makes no sense! I thought your slice was really well written--tie in, full circle, lots of details...well done!

elsie said...

Once you have a kid in your house and heart, your sleep is forever interrupted. I know exactly what you mean. Sigh. . .

Ramona said...

This is a tough twist for you. I remember when daughter was on some of her rotations. I would make her call and we would chat as she made her way home in the middle of the night. I'm worried about when you and Zay will connect. Days off?

Linda B said...

Yep, it doesn't end, although my kids are now being taken care of by their spouses, & that helps. But all those years until they did get married, some nights were not easy sleeping. I'm hoping the shift changes again for your sake, Carol!

Carol Varsalona said...

Mothers worry-isn't that the truth!

Rebecca Gomez said...

So true! I've been thinking lately that the baby and toddler years were a piece of cake compared to now, with two of my girls in college.

Carrie Gelson said...

Oh yes, it never seems to get easier. Just different!

Tabatha said...

I hear you, Carol -- my son just started driving, and that is a scariness unto itself! I hope your son's work shift moves to a better time so you can see him and get some sleep. It sounds like he is doing well, though!

Mary Lee said...

And then you switch places with your own mother and get sleepless nights of a different kind...